“I hate California, I want to go to the east coast. I want to go where culture is, like New York, or Connecticut or New Hampshire.” Lady Bird/Christine
There are many coming of age stories. They come in different guises. Some are serious (Dead Poet’s Society) and some are silly (Super Bad) and some are a little of both (Juno). Lady Bird is a little of both.
Lady Bird was born from the mind of Great Gerwig. Gerwig has developed a style as an actor that is quirky and funny and vulnerable. She started writing with her partner (romantic and creative) Noah Baumbach and starring in these films while he directed (Frances Ha, Mistress America). Lady Bird is her directorial debut and it’s as assured an effort as you’ll see. She based the script on her own upbringing in Sacramento, California and her relationship with her mother and you can tell she knows the time and place and these characters inside and out. Even though I didn’t grow up in Sacramento I did grow up in California, a small town called Ontario and I empathized with Lady Bird. I felt exactly the same way. I also empathized with Gerwig. While I wanted out of the small town I grew up in I’ll always feels nostalgic about it.
Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is a high school senior who prefers to go by the name of ‘Lady Bird’. She’s a quirky teen with bad skin and dyed hair and she longs to get out of her small town and be where the action is. Her mother, played wonderfully by Laurie Metcalfe, is not exactly supportive. Their relationship is the crux of the film and it’s very honest and real. Lady Bird’s father, played sweetly by Tracy Letts, has lost his job and the family is struggling to make ends meet. Lady Bird longs to go to a college in New York which of course her parents could not afford and enlists her dad’s help while keeping her mom in the dark. Meanwhile, she attends an all-female Catholic school and she and her best friend Julie imagine themselves living in nice houses and dating the cutest boy. Of course, Lady Bird and Julie will drift apart as friends do when one gets in a relationship and starts hanging with a different crowd. Lady Bird has high expectations of herself and what she thinks her life should be like and she’s determined to meet them no matter what. The story never gets too big and that’s good. It’s a slice of life, a character study, a coming of age story, all those things. But ultimately, it’s just a really good movie with great characters and performances that is filled with so many small touches that ring true.
Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet are very good as Lady Bird’s respective boyfriends. Lois Smith (True Blood) and Stephen Henderson (Fences) are delightful in small roles as Sister Sara, the high school principal and Father Leviatch who is the drama director. It’s Saoirse Ronan’s show and she is terrific in the part. Laurie Metcalf equals her as her mom. Their scenes together are funny, touching and powerful. Gerwig has made a lovely film and I look forward to seeing many more from her. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll walk out of the theater feeling all the feels!